South Africa

Cape Town: Immigrants accuse cops of abuse as their businesses are destroyed

By GroundUp 27 June 2013

Immigrants who protested outside Kraaifontein Police station on Thursday 20 June claim that police officers assigned to the Wallacedene area yelled offensive statements at them. They also gave harrowing accounts of how they lost their livelihoods. By TARIRO WASHINYIRA.

A housing dispute erupted in Wallacedene in early June. It arose because some residents living in shacks are upset that they have not been allocated RDP houses yet and believe others have jumped the queue. They also blamed immigrants who are renting RDP houses. This led to violent attacks on homes and businesses. At first the attacks targeted South Africans who moved into the area from Khayelitsha, but now they have been directed at immigrant residents and business owners. After destroying several homes, people then attacked Chinese and Somali families and looted shops, selling off valuable merchandise and property to scrap yards.

Immigrants we met at the protest outside the Kraaifontein police station claim that police officers refused to help them and yelled that they should go back to their countries of birth. The police officers, allege some of the immigrants, yelled that they only respect Nelson Mandela, but once he is dead they will make sure the immigrants go back to their countries. One of the immigrants who refused to be named also accused the police of taking part in the looting and said she went to the police station to report this. She planned to request assistance retrieving her property from the looters’ hideout but upon arriving, was told no officers were available to help.

A Zimbabwean immigrant said attackers barged into her house, demanding money. When she said she had none, they started to search her bags. They took her phone and some of her furniture. She only managed to grab a blanket to cover her children from the cold weather before fleeing the house. She then hid outside Kraaifontein Police Station.

Mahomed Nuur, a Somali storeowner, said his shop, which is situated in Takudi Street in Wallacedene area, was the first to be attacked. He said criminals stole property worth R40,000 and destroyed the shop.

Another Somali, Bore Mukudini, whose store was also robbed, said, “The police did not do anything to help. They just watched. The criminals looted all the groceries and meat including the fridges. One of the criminals ate raw iced chicken from the fridge and I found it very strange. They then damaged the windows, doors and roof of the shop. They made it very difficult and it will take me many months to rebuild the shop.”

Angelino Ngose is a South African who leased her spaza shop to a Somali. She is devastated because her shop was vandalised and her house was almost vandalised as well.

She said, “More than 100 people came to loot last Wednesday night. I and my four children did not sleep that whole night because the police had warned me that the criminals were burning the Chinese shops but were moving towards my area. I was scared they would burn the house when they finished looting the groceries from the spaza shop.”

She said she was in great pain because the Somali national had leased from her for five years and the majority of her income came from the Spaza shop’s rental. She used the money to pay R6,000 every year for her child’s college fees. She also used the money to pay the house rent and buy food. With the recent destruction, she does not know how she is going to survive.

On Thursday morning, the Provincial Commissioner of the Western Cape Police, Lieutenant General Arno Lamoer, met with community leaders and representatives from Somali-owned businesses and addressed their concerns. Lamoer strongly condemned the violence and assured the community that it would not be tolerated.

In an emailed response to the allegations made against the police, Lieutenant Colonel Andre Traut said, “May I please enquire whether the individuals you are referring to have lodged any formal complaint regarding the allegations? If this is not the case, I strongly encourage them to do so, so that the allegations can be investigated. This will also place me in a far better position to respond to the matter once all aspects have been considered.” DM

Read more about community life in Khayelitsha and other Cape townships on GroundUp.

Photo: Somali nationals demonstrate outside the Parliament in Cape Town against xenophobic attacks. (REUTERS file photo)


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